http://soundcloud.com/mark-and-the-gortones/mark-track-1 – Hear a Northern Soul classic tortured and finally murdered. By me.

Round about 1970 was when I joined the in-crowd.  I cut off my hair, learnt how to get my kicks out on the floor, and swore I’d just keep on keepin’ on.  Northern Soul was a unique phenomenon, youngsters from Lancaster down to Stoke seeking out the best American dance music the rest of the world seemed to ignore.

I  have no idea how it began, although I seem to remember the Stax label becoming a crucial part of the northern music scene in the late sixties. I grew up in Blackburn and, when I was eleven or twelve, I heard about the Stax club that had opened up there.  Suddenly, and almost impossibly, ‘Blackburn’ sounded exciting, the way ‘Nashville’ and ‘Memphis’ did on the radio.

Continue reading “A LITTLE TOGETHERNESS”


NUMBER 290 – the story of CSS Alabama

1854.  Two United States naval officers share a cabin on a ship called the USS Cumberland.  Their names are Raphael Semmes and John Winslow and we can assume they are friends as well as colleagues.

When they write their autobiographies years later, neither man will mention the time they spent together.

Semmes and Winslow were destined to find themselves on opposite sides in the American Civil War, skippering vessels which fight one of the most famous battles in maritime history.  A battle which ends a truly remarkable story of courage or villainy, brilliant naval warfare or piracy, call it what you will.

The victors were Winslow and the USS Kearsarge.  The vanquished were Semmes and the Confederacy’s most destructive commerce raider, a ship which had terrorised Union shipping for two years.  A ship built in secret.  A ship half crewed by Englishmen from Liverpool.  A ship called…


Continue reading “NUMBER 290 – the story of CSS Alabama”